Photo credit: USA Football/Ed Hall Jr.
Team Mexico scored a quick touchdown on their opening series against France and went on to beat them 20-7 in the bronze medal game of the 2015 IFAF World Championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
For Mexico, there was much more at stake than a win over France to earn third place at these International Federation of American Football World Championships.
Up until the game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame on Saturday, Mexico (1-2) had been winless in games against the United States (30-6) and Japan (35-7).
That left head coach Raul Rivera Sanchez wanting to see a little fight from his team before it headed back home.
“Today’s a very important day for football in Mexico,” Sanchez said. “It’s the first time we won a medal in a tournament where the United States was our rival. For us, it was very important for us to win. Not only for ourselves and family, for our country and everyone else.”
The fact Mexico was facing its worse performance in IFAFWC history following runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2003 and a fourth-place finish in 2011 was pressing.
But Mexico came out with a new attitude and it equated to an all-important win over France (2-2).
“It’s an overwhelming emotion,” said Mexico running back Allan Rosado. “To overcome the other times we didn’t win. The satisfaction is higher because we played against the USA, and it was a bigger rival than four years ago.”
Early on, it looked like Mexico was going to run away with things after Alexis Magallanes scored from 55 yards on the second play of the first quarter. Jose Maltas added a 40-yard field goal, and Mexico was up 9-0 until late in the second quarter.
But a 12-yard touchdown by running back Stephan Yepmo (17 carries, 85 yards) capped off a seven-play, 68-yard drive 2:26 before halftime, and just like that the French went into halftime down by only two with the luxury of receiving the second half kickoff.
The French drove inside Mexico territory to start the half, but a fumble by Perez Mattison gave it back to Mexico. Maltas put a 53-yard field goal through the uprights to give Mexico a 12-7 lead, and France never got any closer.
Turnovers were key to the French downfall as four miscues left the squad fighting an uphill battle.
If Cesar Martinez, Jaime Heras and Vladislave Avila weren’t picking off Mattison (17-of-31, 160 yards), Mexico was forcing a fumble on a strip sack to make sure the French never could get on track.
“It’s rough,” French head coach Patrick Esume said. “If you are so undersized and run the ball, actually move the ball on the ground, and get in the red zone and you have guys open, and then you get a turnover, that really hurts. It’s tough on the sideline because you’re moving the ball. You are in control of the game, but then something bad happens and you lose control of the game.”
Despite the loss, France leaves matching its highest finish in IFAF history. That has Esume excited for the future.
“We are really close to joining the group of the elite four,” Esume said. “There’s still a big, big difference between all the teams and the U.S. There’s a gap between these three and the U.S., but we can make the jump to the group of Japan, Mexico and Canada. I think we proved that today.